Monday, October 31, 2005

Cape Cod - Lessons in Energy Conservation

Yesterday Marc and I ran the Cape Cod Marathon. Unfortunately we had different experiences. See Marc's post on what he calls the Crash and Burn at Cape Cod for his report. I was there when the engines started sputtering and the warning lights lit the cockpit in a bath of flashing amber as we scrambled to save the craft. Then, in a heroic gesture, he detached his jet from mine and I went to afterburner to clear the scene. Here's the story...

Milling about in the crowd of 1200 marathon entrants and 180 or so relay runners, Marc & I inched our way forward toward the starting line trying to get a decent position for a start. Not that we were intending on putting out a fast mile but wanted to avoid getting behind a wall of walkers or other characters. Without even a "how-do-you-do" the cannon fired which shocked the lot of us as we realized the race had begun. Comments floated above the crowd wondering at the lack of official speeches and ceremony. No loss, the runners began their 26.2 mile journey around the southwest portion of Cape Cod Massachusetts.

The crowds were out in force through downtown Falmouth which made the start very festive. The rest of the course was sparcely populated with spectators as we wound through the beautiful shoreline and countryside of Cape Cod. Every once in awhile we'd run through a major "spectator zone" where we get cheered on from the sidelines. Quite nice.

Marc and I ran mile one in 7:59. Our goal pace was 7:38 or 3:20:00 for the race but the plan involved a conservative effort in the 1st half to avoid the wall during the final miles. This 7:59 first mile included the 15 seconds it took to get over the start line so we were pleased with our current pace. It felt relaxed and controlled. We hit mile two in 7:28. A little faster than the plan so we dialed it back a few notches to see if we couldn't hit 7:38 a little more closely. Mile 3 in 7:44 and mile four in 7:37. We were pleased with these splits. The pace felt right and the seconds over goal pace were deemed "energy in the bank" to be used in the 2nd half. We limited our conversation this trip also to conserve energy. Our Nova Scotia experience (chatting the first 10 miles) taught us that lesson. Mile 5 cruised past in 7:44. We were feeling good and we passed a few folks and a few folks passed us. We were running our own pace without regard to others' races.

Mile 6 in 7:50 threw us a little. There was a water stop embedded in the time but it seemed a little slow for the effort. The 5 second drop without a corresponding effort change had me a little concerned because I didn't know how far into a time deficit we could safely go. However, I trusted my conservation theory and decided it would all come back to us at some point. I said so to Marc. Miles 7, 8, & 9 averaged 7:42- 7:44. These 7:45's seemed to be the natural pace as we started hitting the hills. I can't recall exactly where the hills began but I believe it was around this point. Initially the hills were long. Up for a while then down a good deal. This happened a few times. We eased up the hills sacrificing speed if necessary to conserve energy. On the downhills we lengthened the strides and grabbed a few seconds for the clock.

At mile 10 (in 7:33), Marc did an amazing line cut at a porta-john and got away with it. I continued on keeping pace and by mile 11 Marc had caught back up clocking a 7:40 which included the pit stop. He mentioned that he had to run rather "hard" to catch up and I thought I sensed a little concern on his part about what that effort would portend. We climbed again for a 7:41 12 mile then down the other side for 7:26 for 13 miles. This downhill was so long that I did not enjoy it at all. Marc was just behind me and commented that it was too early for 7:26's. It was a sign we might be feeling differently about how the race was progressing. I was concerned with developing a steady strategy to make up our minor time deficit and Marc may have been concerned about getting to the final miles in good shape. We hit the half in 1:40:47 - only 47 seconds over where we needed to be. This seemed very reasonable to me. We had conserved the pace over several of the miles and brought the time deficit down when traveling downhill - but I heard Marc mention "now we've got to run a negative" and he didn't seem happy about it.

My legs by this point were a little fatigued and I had concerns myself about how the legs were going to hold up for the next 13.1 miles. However, my lungs felt great and I had a feeling of running well within my aerobic comfort zone. This kept my mind off the muscle fatigue that was building. I called over my shoulder "do you want me to pace it?" meaning establish a pace and have Marc run off the shoulder. He agreed and I stretched it out a little for a 7:24 14th mile. A little faster than we needed I thought, so we backed down to 7:39 for mile 15. An uphill saw 7:50 and I felt that it was time we committed to the negative split in terms of even splits through the remaining 11 miles. Mile 16 was downhill and a pretty steep angle and there was a crowd of us (mostly relay runners) all heading down at the same time. You could hear the footsteps of the runners as we covered the course. Using the downhill to reduce our time deficit I reached mile 17 in 7:25, looked over my shoulder and was surprised to find Marc missing! I thought he was right behind me all the time but he was not. So I jogged off to the side and sort of jogged in place until he came into view around the corner. He was suffering leg fatigue - "nothing left" - and experiencing the well known marathon low at 17 miles. I tried encouragement, saying it was just a low, we could run ~ 7:30's from here on in and still hit the BQ, but his breathing was harder then usual and going up the next hill I could tell was a chore. He told me to "go on - run your race" but I said no, we'd run it in together. We hit mile 18 in 8:14 (which included my little jog in place). I was hoping that a rebound might occur and some hidden energy would surface allowing Marc to bring the pace back. But Marc knew differently - we had both been there before and knew what it all meant. As we struggled through mile 19 in 8:04 Marc declared the "nail in the coffin" and ordered me to get on with my race. I could tell he needed to back off from the 8 minute pace to get to the finish and I reluctantly decided to leave him in peace which is exactly what he wanted.

So with 7 miles to go I dropped the hammer. Determined to leave all my reserve energy on the streets of Falmouth I gave it all I had. Powering up the hills, striding the downs, and cruising the flats I ran to the redline with what I had left in the tank. Hitting mile 20 in 6:35, I cruised a 6:28 21st and a 6:29 22nd mile. I passed and passed and passed with all the concentration I could muster. I finally ditched my mittens at mile 22 and tore in mile 23 with the tank starting to empty and the legs on fire. I could only squeeze out a 6:51 for that mile and 6:53 for mile 24 but people were still fading back to me and I kept pressing for that finish. I scraped together a 6:40 25th mile along the shore and struggled to mile 26 in 7:08. Turning onto Main Street for the final 385 yards I kicked with all I had to the cheers of spectators and squeaked under 3:15 by 5 seconds for a 3:14:55 and a 6 minute negative split.

I have never been able pour it on in the final miles of marathon before. What a feeling! I felt on top of the world - gaining all those places back that I have lost in the final miles of all my previous marathons. There is something to be said about having something left to crank out a 7 mile dash to the finish!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Nor'easters & Me

Yesterday I awoke (again) to the sound of rain being driven hard against the house and knew it was time to get out for the run. A quick check on the local weather buoy showed 30 mph winds coming out of the northeast and the radar plot showed heavy precip. Exciting. This time I wore mittens.

At first I thought I wouldn't be able to go after all as I had difficulty opening the front door. The rain had swollen the wood so it was stuck and the constant wind pressure on the glass made for a comical early morning struggle. I push the top part and made slight progress before the wind closed it again for me. Then I kicked the swollen bottom only to have the top refuse to budge. Kick - push - lean. Kick - push - lean. Finally after making a racket to wake the neighbors I successfully exited my abode and felt the cold rain on my face. The two steps across waterlogged leaves served the purpose of soaking the feet and off I jogged into the swirl of an angry wind and driving rain - lit only by a flickering street lamp.

My Christmas gift from my parents last year was my Gortex jacket and boy do I like this jacket. It is not very useful if the temperature is too high or if I am going to generate heat by running hard because it is very warm after a few miles. However, on a stormy day when I want to keep dry, nothing fits the bill better. I had the wrists battened down tightly and the hood snug up. The rain beat against the hood deafening me to any other sounds (like approaching cars or charging deer) as I jogged alone. The tap-tappity-tap of the rain on the jacket material brought to mind the cozy feeling of being snug in the house next to a warm fire. In fact, a similar scene to the one I just left to be out in this mess. Ah, but to experience the wind as it drives you suddenly into that deep puddle or stops you half way up the steep hill or steals the breath you were about to take!

I had set my countdown timer alarm to 30 minutes where I would turn around and take a more direct route back to the house from wherever I was. I didn't hear it. But wandering out on the airport I decided I had enough weather and started the journey home. I ran by the ocean swarmed with whitecaps, early dock workers struggling with gear, cars seen only by their misty headlights creeping to work, but no other runners. Just me. Time = 49:58 ~5.5 miles.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I Love to Run (or how the weather affects my mood)

Such a nice day for running! I didn't get out this morning but easily found time today at lunch. Did 9 miles in 1:06:43 under overcast skies, in cool temps, and accompanied by a slight breeze. Above me, the trees showed their bare tops as I tread on the recently fallen leaves. The river was high, the tide was in and a blue heron made a majestic exit as I approached his resting spot.

The taper is upon me. It is fortunately coinciding with a little trouble I had after I got back from Minnesota. The sinus infection really sapped me of energy and I have had a most difficult time getting back on the roads. Sleep as been the order of the day and while I know I am smart to obey nature's doctor, it ruins a good run of runs. So I slept. Each morning I've been stocking up on the zzzz's in hopes of dipping into the bank of them after Marc and I conquer Cape Cod.

What I'd like to do is run consistently. I read other's blogs and find consistency everywhere. But you won't find it here. The devil - I'm gonna have it. Ever get inspired by another runner? I do all the time - and not the superstars but those that I come across in the daily read of running blogs. You'll find grit, inspiration, determination, speed, fun, and laughs in the running community. A good place to be.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Now 22... Is a Fine Number

This morning I rolled out of bed at 3:15 for my weekly long run. Due to scheduling issues, in order to squeeze a long run in today, I would have to be back at the house by 7am. So a 3 hour workout requires a 4am start. Luckily, I went to bed very early last night and by 3am I was awake on my own. Tea, toast, and I was out the door by 4 o'clock. It was cold! Frost settled in last night and the air was crisp. The buoy said 47 degrees with no wind but I am certain on land it was in the 30's. This is common in the fall and winter - the bouy always registering a warmer temp than on the island.

I was surprised by how good I felt! When I shuffled down the road in the dark I felt like I owned the town. The only one out and doing the most important workout of the week. I got thinking before my run about my comment the other day regarding snack stops during the long runs. Today, I thought I'd try a little variation on that theme. So yesterday I purchased some PowerGels and some plastic cups. I put my water in the cups on the hood of my car. So every 5k I would run by the house, swipe a cup, drink, and drop the cup (for later pickup) on the side of the road. I took one PowerGel before the run, 1 at the 5k mark, one at the 15k mark and the last at the 25k mark. This worked remarkably well and I had a wonderful run. My total time was 2:51:58 or a 7:47 pace. This included a couple of short stops at the house but not as long as the 18 miler stops. The 5k splits were:

5K 24:16 - 7:50 pace
10K 24:02 - 7:45 pace
15K 23:25 - 7:33 pace
20K 22:42 - 7:19 pace
25K 24:03 - 7:45 pace (met up with Eric and he agreed to run the final laps with me. I'll trade speed for a company anyday)
30K 23:24 - 7:34 pace
35K 23:18 - 7:31 pace

The final .4 miles in 2:57 (7:22 pace). I had good easy progression until I saw Eric coming down the street. I yelled "Come run some laps!" like I was referring to a track and he agreed. I had 3 laps to go and we set off. The pace slowed a little but that was ok with me. Running 7 x 5k laps in the dark by oneself can drive you crazy. The rule is ALWAYS accept company!

We cruised through the silent streets of Eastport and we gradually increased our pace. He is used to running longer loops around the island and was commenting on how quickly these laps seemed to be going. I have become accustomed to these shorter laps and believe that part of the faster secret is 1) access to water/food at more regular intervals and 2) each time I feel a slight drop in energy I'm only a mile or two from the house and it's easy to say "I'll just push it to the house".

Of note: I saw the space station go whizzing by in the starry sky on Lap 1 or 2, was thinking about my blog when I almost ran over a skunk, spotted the obligatory herd of deer and waived to the patrol car 7 different times in 7 different parts of town.

Yesterday I ran an easy 1 hour. Not one step further. I was glad that was all was on tap. Tomorrow - 1 hour easy.